Children Trying to Save the World, Or at Least Their Particular Worlds

Smack Dab in the Middle of Maybe

Jo Watson Hackl

It’s amazing the number of children who are put in situations where they feel they need to solve their families’ problems. Or, at the very least, not make the problems worse. Children who have a parent off to war feel the tension and either silently try to be perfect or take over parenting their younger siblings or some show some other behavior that leaves the children with stunted emotional growth.

Ms. Hackl’s wonderful book deals with the troubles of twelve-year-old Cricket whose father is dead and whose mother is probably bi-polar. From the opening sentence the book pulls the reader right in: Turns out, it’s easier than you might think to sneak out of town smuggling a live cricket, three pocketfuls of jerky, and two bags of half-paid-for merchandise from Thelma’s Cash ‘n’ Carry grocery store. Well, wouldn’t you keep reading?

Cricket’s mama has gone off on another of her quests to find a room she remembers seeing as a child. The room is full of birds. Well, actually they’re paintings of birds, but the paintings are so alive the viewer is sure the birds will fly right off the wall and out the window. Mama has been obsessed with finding that room ever since. Other people say the room is not real. That was just her imagination. And the reader can just hear the people sniggering and whispering “See? She really is crazy.”

Cricket is sure if she can just find that room Mama will come back for good and never feel the need to roam again. Any child who has had a parent go missing for what ever reason will relate to, firmly, to believe that the child can find the parent and make things right. So Cricket runs away from home to find the room and her mother. She takes with her the cricket she rescued from Thelma’s Cash ‘n’ Carry to help her find what she needs. Along the way the pair have many adventures and lots of emotional growth. No, I’m not telling you the ending, you’ll have to read the book. But you’ll indeed enjoy the journey and the people you meet along the way.

I personally can relate to feeling the need to make things better and to find my missing father. Actually, he really was killed in WWII and I never knew him, but I always fantasized that he would show up at Walter Reed Army Hospital with amnesia and I would reunite him with our family. That is until I had grown up myself and knew that I had no real connection to him.

Do read this book, it will show you how children stay strong.

BIBLIO: 2018, A Yearling Book/Penguin Random House, Ages 8 to 12, $7.99.

REVIEWER: Sarah Maury Swan

FORMAT: Middle Grade

ISBN: 978-0-399-55741-5

Murder and Mayhem!

Oh boy, I’ve discovered a new writer of children’s books, and not only that, I’m now a member of her critique group!

Her name is Sheila Turnage and she a delightful person as well as being an outstanding writer. She lives in Farmville, NC, and has historical ties to Washington, NC, which is affectionally known as “Little Washington,” so as not to confuse it with the capital of our country.

In Little Washington, there is a grand theater which is used for all manner of events and it is named after Sheila’s grandfather who was a big-time mover and shaker there. If you get a chance, do check it out. The town, itself, is worth the trip.

Anyway, Sheila writes mysteries that take place in “Tupelo Landing” starring Miss Moses LoBeau, with her sidekick, Dale Earnhardt Johnson III.

Moses LoBeau is known far and wide as Mo, because her foster father and savior, The Colonel, thought she was a boy when he rescued her as new born from the local river during a hurricane. So, he’d given her an apt name for a boy found in the water.

Dale Earnhardt Johnson III, was so named because his father is a big fan of Dale Earnhardt, Sr., who had just won his third racing title.

The first mystery and murder are about the death of the local curmudgeon, and Ms. Turnage neatly keeps us guessing as to who the real killers are.

Dale’s father is the prime suspect because he’s so often the culprit of bad things happening in the town.

But the books aren’t just about mysteries, they also introduce us to life in Tupelo Landing and most all 143 members of the town. And boy are there a lot of characters, including Mo’s arch enemy, Anna Celeste Simpson, a.k.a. Attila. Dale’s dog, Queen Elizabeth has a significant role in the stories.

In the hopes that one day she’ll meet her birth mother, Mo sends notes in bottles to her, calling her “Upstream Mother.” All the towns people help her in the endeavor, by dropping the bottles anytime they go upstream. Sometimes Mo gets answers but never one from her mother.

The books are Three Times Lucky (2012, ISBN: 97800-8037-3670-2) The Ghosts of Tupelo Landing, (2014,) The Odds of Getting Even (2015, ISBN 978-0-8037-3961-1) The Law of Finders Keepers (2018.)

 

Borrow from your local library or order them from Dial Books for Young Readers/Penguin Group/Penguin Random House or Amazon.

Also check Ms. Turnage out on her website: http://www.sheilaturnage.com